SSM Update

August 9, 2004 | 83 comments
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Kay Hymowitz at the Manhattan Journal weighs in on SSM. She agrees with many of us that the key issue is whether or not marriage has any connection to procreation/childrearing. She concedes that recent trends have tended to separate them but sees this as a decline to be deplored and reversed rather than furthered. She reflects extensively on the meaning of republican marriage, as understood by the Founders. This is the most interesting part. Were I, alas, a member of the vanished leisure classes I would certainly parse some time away from the poetry and polo-playing to learn from the Founders how political self-government is only possible if the law of God is written in the heart, and how marriage is where politics and God’s law are conjoined, as an institution recieving both the sanction of religion and of the state, and as the means by which the young are brought up to do their civic duty and acknowledge the hand of the Lord in all things. In my opinion, no one coming from a good home is entirely lost to us.
Beware the dithering and the gratuitous New Yorker swipe at big families.

Material from Last Week:

The first attempt at a Federal Marriage Amendment failed. State marriage amendments continue to succeed. Seventy-one percent of Missourians just amended their own constitution to affirm “”That to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman.” Missourians’ passion for protecting marriage was enough to overcome their inner stylists.

Stanley Kurtz has a long article full of juicy links evaluating the the chances for future attempts at a Federal Marriage Amendment. He thinks they’re high. If due process or equal protection claims start working their way through the courts, voters will respond, he argues. And
Although the analogy is seriously flawed, gay-marriage advocates see this issue as one of fundamental civil rights. They cannot and will not hold back from moving gay marriage through the courts. Once faced with the issue, liberal judges recoil in horror from the prospect of going down in history as an opponent of civil rights. So despite the political risks of pressing forward, the process moves on of its own ineluctable weight. This is truly a case where an irresistible force is hurtling swiftly toward an immovable object. And when the clash comes, the political calculations in this dispute are going to change.

Eve Tushnet reviews Rauch’s book touting SSM as good for marriage.

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83 Responses to SSM Update

  1. john fowles on August 5, 2004 at 3:40 pm

    I like Kurtz’s effort to re-emphasize the countermajoritarian nature of the gay rights advocates’ use of activist judges to force something on the American people that would never pass a democratically elected legislature. When the American people see these liberal elites by-passing the democratic process and in effect amending the Constitution on equal protection and due process grounds (by writing yet more “rights” into the Constitution that simply are not there), it really scares them, as shown by the higher-than-anticipated level of support in Missouri for the marriage amendment.

    I personally would rather not amend the Constitution. However, I have been persuaded to support an amendment with my vote (despite personal reluctance for amending the Constitution) by two things: (1) the Church’s stated support of an amendment generally, though not of a specific amendment that has already been suggested, coupled with President Hinckley’s prophetic exhortation to loyalty to the Church in the April 2003 priesthood session of Conference in which he invoked Utah’s deciding vote in repealing Prohibition against President Heber J. Grant’s wishes; and (2) Senator Gordon Smith’s thoughtful Senate floor speech in support of the amendment, in which he points out that the Constitution is going to be amended, the question is just by whom: the elitist activist judges who will use EP and DP doctrines to override state DOMA laws, duly enacted by democractically elected legislatures, or by the American people themselves through the Constitutional process of amending the Constitution. I also want to point out that Senator Smith’s view closely approximates mine in that I think we should extend gays rights and benefits but that we should preserve the word marriage for what it means. I would highly recommend Senator Smith’s comments.

    Presumably, many of these gays are on the left, whose rhetoric is always that the right is elitist and undemocratic. But ironically, these activists don’t want the American people’s voice to be heard on this issue, preferring instead to forum shop for willing federal judges whose agenda is openly known. That seems much more elitist than taking campaign donations from big corporations (which by the way the Democrats do their fair share of too).

  2. Kaimi on August 5, 2004 at 4:09 pm

    (At the risk of igniting yet another uber-thread)

    John writes,

    “Presumably, many of these gays are on the left, whose rhetoric is always that the right is elitist and undemocratic.”

    And the charge of the straw brigade begins!

    Come on, John, you know better than this. There is a lengthy history of liberal legal thought about how the Constitution protects minority groups from the tyranny of the majority. This is nothing new. It’s an idea that is articulated well in Ely’s Democracy and Distrust. It was a concern voiced by Brandeis and Holmes. It is one of the major underlying themes in liberal legal Constitutional thought today, and it finds support in numerous Founding-era statements and portions of the Federalist Papers.

    Yes, there can be a debate on the wisdom, legality, or propriety of the belief that the Constitution protects minorities against the tyranny of the majority. But let’s not pretend like this is some new and inconsistent rhetorical move when it’s been a standard liberal legal theme for a century now.

  3. john fowles on August 5, 2004 at 4:30 pm

    Kaimi, I am aware of the virtues of the Constitution in protecting minorities against the tyranny of the majority. I fully support this notion. But does that include the creation of rights that don’t exist in that Constitution by the courts? We won’t resolve the countermajoritarian debate on this thread (probably, considering the weight of half a century’s worth of formidable law review articles dissecting the topic). But I think you are throwing out your own batch of straw men by diverting the issue to “a debate on the wisdom, legality, or propriety of the belief that the Constitution protects minorities against the tyranny of the majority.” That would be a silly debate.

    This isn’t an instance of a minority seeking protection from majority tyranny in the Constitution; this is a case of a liberal, activist elite pursuing a positive agenda through the courts in open spite of the legitimate democratic process. Why doesn’t the gay community press for a Constitutional amendment of their own, which adds gay marriage to the constitutionally protected rights in our society? I would guess because they know that they couldn’t achieve that.

    My point was more to the double standard regarding elites that seems to be revealing itself through this process. Why is it annoying to point out such a double standard? Why are elites suddenly fine if their agenda is “progressive” in a social sense but not in an economic sense? I guess that is more of the core of what I am asking.

  4. John on August 5, 2004 at 6:51 pm

    Perhaps this aspect of the question has been debated here before, but I am pretty new here, so I’ll bring it up. Please feel free to point me to a past discussion if needed.

    What follows is hearsay and a bit old, so if anyone has info to back this up or counter it I would be interested. Also, please forgive me if this post makes me a “Utah Mormon” in some way.

    I have been told this (more than once) by a person that was in a meeting with the General Relief Society Presidency when Sister Jack reported on her last meeting with the twelve. Sister Jack said that she was told in her meeting that the church opposed gay marriage but felt that civil unions were an acceptable compromise. Sister Jack then continued on to other subjects without further discussion of this issue, which was frustrating to my source, who thought this was a bit of a bombshell.

    So what do people think? Is the church silently in favor of civil unions? This strikes me as a reasonable position. Leave the institution of marriage alone, but provide a governmental alternative. Now the exact definition of civil unions is rather fuzzy, which makes this question a bit messy to say the least. Still, why haven’t we heard more about this?

  5. Silus Grok on August 5, 2004 at 8:44 pm

    John: if the Church is silently in favor of civil unions (and I hope they aren’t), how would we know?

    (“John” is a little generic… I think it sure would be helpful if you dropped in an initial or something, as it would differentiate you from other Johns.)

  6. just John on August 5, 2004 at 9:41 pm

    Silus,

    I was planning on using “John H.” but that is taken. So far nobody is using just John other than me. Perhaps that is it!

    As far as your topical question goes, I have no idea how we would know other than rumour. That seems like a bad way to go. I can tell you that I believe what I posted above, but it is light on details, some of which I know and other that I don’t. I certainly don’t expect my account to convince anyone reading it here of anything because it looks like every other “Utah Mormon” story.

    btw, why do you hope they aren’t?

  7. Chris Grant on August 5, 2004 at 10:33 pm

    John wrote: “I have been told this (more than once) by a person that was in a meeting with the General Relief Society Presidency when Sister Jack reported on her last meeting with the twelve. Sister Jack said that she was told in her meeting that the church opposed gay marriage but felt that civil unions were an acceptable compromise.”

    Sister Jack hasn’t been in the General Relief Society Presidency in 7 years. I don’t think many people were talking about same-sex civil unions back in 1997.

  8. Mark on August 6, 2004 at 1:56 am

    It seems futile to me to try and give a “separate but equal” form of marriage to gays. Does anyone think they’re not going to refer, in some cases at least, to each other as husbands and wives, or to casually state to others when the opportunity arises that they are, indeed, married? Once the language is appropriated, there will be no real difference between “civil unions” and “marriages”. And I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. But I do see it as inevitable.

  9. john fowles on August 6, 2004 at 2:09 am

    I also see it as inevitable. That raises interesting questions of its own: do we throw up our hands and resign ourselves to it just because of that fact, or do we go down with the ship? (Speaking of “we” as people who consider homosexuality and gay marriage a sin just because the scriptures and our living prophets say so and for no other reason.)

  10. diogenes on August 6, 2004 at 2:19 am

    I also see it as inevitable, and frankly don’t really see what all the fuss is about.

    Ten or fifteen years from now we will teach our children: “We belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We don’t smoke tobacco, we don’t drink alcohol, we don’t engage in sex outside of marriage, and we don’t marry people of the same gender.”

    It’s just one more thing that sets us apart from the world. So what else is new?

  11. just John on August 6, 2004 at 9:04 am

    Diogenes,
    I think that we will move away from the term “marriage” and start to use “sealing” more frequently to denote a well defined institution that the government cannot hijack and remake as it pleases.

  12. Chris Grant on August 6, 2004 at 11:06 am

    Diogenes wrote: ‘I also see it as inevitable, and frankly don’t really see what all the fuss is about. Ten or fifteen years from now we will teach our children: “We belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We don’t smoke tobacco, we don’t drink alcohol, we don’t engage in sex outside of marriage, and we don’t marry people of the same gender.”‘

    How much further are you willing to expand this list without raising a fuss?

  13. diogenes on August 6, 2004 at 2:48 pm

    Chris Grant — It’s already a very, very long list — in the interests of bandwidth I left off love our neighbors, pay tithing, deal honestly, fast once a month, avoid Sabbath work & shopping, pray daily, avoid pornography, sit through (at least) three hours of meetings each Sunday, and several hundred other things (most of them inconvenient) that we do and the world doesn’t.

    And, yes, in a pluralistic society I expect the list to just keep getting longer and the gap to just keep getting wider.

    Just John — I think your are correct, and I find myself increasingly sympathetic to statements by Brigham Young that for us it’s temple marriage or nothing — in a number of comments he indicated that he considered civil marriage essentially tantamount to adultery, a view which seems to have been, if you’ll pardon the term, prophetic.

  14. Adam Greenwood on August 6, 2004 at 3:20 pm

    The list keeps getting longer and longer if you’re willing to write off civil society. Some of us think though that particular ship probably sunk a long time ago (yea, from the foundation of the world), we still have a duty to act as if there were still hope for it and its passengers.

  15. john fowles on August 6, 2004 at 3:21 pm

    Diogenes wrote: I also see it as inevitable, and frankly don’t really see what all the fuss is about.

    Even though it is inevitable, don’t you think we need to raise our voice against it? The fuss is about the BoM’s admonition that as long as we keep the commandments, we shall prosper in the land. In the words of Alma to his son Helaman, “I swear unto you, that inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land.” (See also Mosiah 2:22 and 2:31 for King Benjamin’s own endorsement of this teaching.) Conversely, as Jacob taught, “this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes” (Jacob 2:29). This scripture in Jacob is talking specifically about sexual transgression. Omni 1:6 is perhaps more direct: “Inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall not prosper in the land.”

  16. Chris Grant on August 6, 2004 at 4:10 pm

    Diogenes wrote: “yes, in a pluralistic society I expect the list to just keep getting longer and the gap to just keep getting wider.”

    And at no point will you raise a fuss?

  17. diogenes on August 6, 2004 at 4:43 pm

    John Fowles — I am doing my level best to keep the commandments, mostly for their own sake, but if it keeps us from getting swept off, so much the better. I trust you are doing the same.

    I am also raising my voice, figuratively speaking, to my neighbors — we had a very nice family night with some of them last week — and I hope that eventually some of them will accept the same covenants that I have.

    But I infer that you believe “this people” refers to anyone who happens to be living on American soil. I think it’s clear — I think Mormon makes it quite clear — that it refers to those of us who have been taught the gospel and covenanted to live those principles. The Book of Mormon is the story of a covenant people, not the the story of those around them (and probably a very substantial population of those around them) who weren’t. Their civilization failed because those who knew the gospel didn’t live up to it, not because those who didn’t know it didn’t.

    The Book’s promises and warnings are directed at those who have made covenants, or at those, such as the Lamanites, whom Mormon hopes can be convinced to make covenants. If those of us in this dispensation who are the covenant people stop living the way we’ve promised to, then yes, I think we’re going to get swept off. But I don’t think our neighbors who don’t know and haven’t accepted the gospel are responsible for living it.

    Adam Greenwood — See my comments above. Yes, we have a duty to act as if there’s hope for the passengers, so invite your neighbors to home evening. Especially the same sex couples. There are going to be a lot of them. There already are in my neighborhood. Ironically, most of them seem to be much nicer and more conscientious parents than many of my heterosexual neighbors.

    Chris Grant — Also see my comments above.

  18. Antisthenes on August 8, 2004 at 12:42 pm

    Don’t make me beat you again, diogenes.

  19. Silus Grok on August 9, 2004 at 1:29 am

    Just John: First, I really like “Just John” … makes you sound like one of the early Fathers (“John the Just”) — and it’s memorable, which is a plus.

    : )

    Anyway: My views on SSM are necessarily complex — it’s a complex issue — and I cannot hope to address them in any comprehensive manner here, but perhaps I can answer your question briefly: I believe that civil unions are a straw man, and that it is not the word “marriage” that needs to be protected, but the rights and priveleges that marriage embodies — rights and priveleges which would be categorically afforded same-sex couples should civil unions be promulgated.

    A rose by any other name…

  20. Mark on August 10, 2004 at 2:07 am

    John Fowles wrote: “Even though it is inevitable, don’t you think we need to raise our voice against it?”

    Obviously, those who are not members of the Church have not made the same covenants that we have with regard to their behavior. America, much to the consternation of right-wing Christians (and some Latter-day Saints, for that matter), is not a theocracy that takes it’s marching orders directly from God, and I doubt that God would have us impose our religious viewpoint with regards to marriage on those who are not members of the Church.

    Yes, we are to raise our voices in favor of heterosexual (eternal) marriage, but I don’t think we’re going to be taken at all seriously if the main thrust of our teaching is a message of condemnation. Instead, we should be teaching the positive aspects of eternal marriage instead of going at it from the vantage point of Karl Malden’s preacher character in Disney’s “Pollyanna”, who was so eager to blast his congregation on a regular basis with the terrors and threat of eternal damnation.

    The question is: can we teach a doctrine of heterosexual-only eternal message without having to respond to the inevitable questions of “Why can’t gays be sealed for eternity, too?” with something not as unpalatable (to the world) as a mere “Because God says so”? Or does it have to come down to that?

  21. Anonymous on August 10, 2004 at 2:49 am

    The church is really ahead of the game. In 1990 the ordinances were changed from specifying the the the man shall only have a sexual relationship with his wife and the woman shall only have a sexual relationship with her husband to a more generic version of all covenanting together to have a sexual relationship only with that one to whom they are legally and lawfully married.

    http://www.lds-mormon.com/compare1.shtml

  22. Silus Grok on August 10, 2004 at 3:42 am

    Wow, Mark… that was heartfelt. Or something.

    I can’t speak for anyone else here, but my own objections to same gender marriage have a firm grounding outside the realm of religion.

  23. Taylor on August 10, 2004 at 10:55 am

    Silus, will you email me please?
    Thanks!

  24. Antisthenes on August 10, 2004 at 11:14 am

    Can Siamese twins be sealed?

  25. Adam Greenwood on August 10, 2004 at 12:28 pm

    I commend you for your efforts to break up same-sex couples, Diogenes :) . I do think it wrong to think that our duties are only to individuals and that we bear no responsiblity for the character of the community to which they belong. Societies as well as people can be baptized.

  26. Michael Sadler on August 10, 2004 at 1:38 pm

    First off high to everyone, I’ve been lurking for quite a while.

    I want to further add to Diogenes comment. If one remembers Book of Mormon history, we will remember that the Nephites, (the covenant people), where the ones who where wiped out, completely and NOT the Laminites.

    To me the whole SSM argument is moot, where talking, about people OUTSIDE the covenant who what to be married to the same gender. This is no deferent that those OUTSIDE the covenant who engage in sexual promiscuity, drink alcohol, smoke, etc. The warnings of the prophets generally refer to the righteousness of the saints, and the subsequent blessings are based on the righteousness.

    We have a mission to the Gentiles to be a light to them, to be examples. IMO, that doesn’t mean we should go legislating our beliefs and forcing others to obey them, even though they may not hold the same views.

    Others have said that “activist” judges are re defining the constitution and saying there a rights where there are none, but where in the constitution does it define marriage as between a man and a women, and for that matter why should it? Marriage, from an anthropological point of view is a social construct, not a religious one. Nor should it be a religious one, per the 1st amendment of the Constitution, barring separation of Church and state.

    Let the Churches decided what they will call marriage and let the Government decide what is marriage. If ones views on the subject does not meet the other THATS OK, Church and State can disagree, this is America, our society from the very beginning was meant to be agnostic toward any one religion.

  27. Michael Sadler on August 10, 2004 at 1:39 pm

    First off high to everyone, I’ve been lurking for quite a while.

    I want to further add to Diogenes comment. If one remembers Book of Mormon history, we will remember that the Nephites, (the covenant people), where the ones who where wiped out, completely and NOT the Laminites.

    To me the whole SSM argument is moot, where talking, about people OUTSIDE the covenant who what to be married to the same gender. This is no deferent that those OUTSIDE the covenant who engage in sexual promiscuity, drink alcohol, smoke, etc. The warnings of the prophets generally refer to the righteousness of the saints, and the subsequent blessings are based on the righteousness.

    We have a mission to the Gentiles to be a light to them, to be examples. IMO, that doesn’t mean we should go legislating our beliefs and forcing others to obey them, even though they may not hold the same views.

    Others have said that “activist” judges are re defining the constitution and saying there a rights where there are none, but where in the constitution does it define marriage as between a man and a women, and for that matter why should it? Marriage, from an anthropological point of view is a social construct, not a religious one. Nor should it be a religious one, per the 1st amendment of the Constitution, barring separation of Church and state.

    Let the Churches decided what they will call marriage and let the Government decide what is marriage. If ones views on the subject does not meet the other THATS OK, Church and State can disagree, this is America, our society from the very beginning was meant to be agnostic toward any one religion.

  28. Silus Grok on August 10, 2004 at 2:39 pm

    Michael: I, too, appreciate a healthy fear of foisting one’s belief system onto one’s neighbor (and there’s a difference between sharing and foisting)… If the only reason to do something is “because God said so”, then I’d wager that it’s probably something between you and God… and that it would probably be bad policy (though the meaning of “bad” varies). But if there are solid, civic-oriented reasons for a policy position, I don’t understand the hesitation. Frankly, whether they call it religion, philosophy, or world view, everyone has a personal mythology that informs their behavior… and if a policy initiative couldn’t agree with one’s world view (for fear that advancing the policy would be equated with advancing the world view) then we’d all be in a heap of trouble.

    I’ve said it before: my position on SGM is not strictly a religious position… in fact, it’s bourne from my feelings about the purpose of government, and the health and longevity of our civic experiment.

  29. Silus Grok on August 10, 2004 at 2:43 pm

    Taylor: You’ve got mail.

  30. Taylor on August 10, 2004 at 3:33 pm

    Silus, sorry! i gave a bum email address on accident. Please try again!

  31. Silus Grok on August 10, 2004 at 5:03 pm

    Done.

  32. Dan Richards on August 10, 2004 at 6:11 pm

    I propose two separate but equal institutions: marriage and schmarriage. When you go to the courthouse, the clerk will ask you “Do you want a marriage license or a schmarriage license?” Marriage will be defined as the union of one man and one woman, while schmarriage will be defined as the union of two people of the same sex. Most laws, e.g. the Tax Code, can easily be amended so that all instances of the words “marriage” or “married” can alternatively be read “schmarriage” or “schmarried.” This would achieve the stated desire of most Americans–to extend the secular benefits of marriage to same-sex couples while preserving marriage as an opposite-sex institution. These terminological distinctions might be able to go even further–a male coworker might introduce you to his schmusband, or even his schmiance.

    OK, I’m not really serious, but I am surprised at how frequently the SSM debate seems to turn on the sanctity of an arbitrary string of phonemes.

  33. Jordan Fowles on August 10, 2004 at 6:16 pm

    WEll-said Dan!

  34. J. Max Wilson on August 10, 2004 at 7:06 pm

    In addition to the Hymowitz article, you should really read the other article by David L. Tubbs, Robert P. George (also from the city journal).

    Here is a link: Redefining Marriage Away

    I’m relatively new to the “Mormon” blogging community. Last month, before I started frequenting “Mormon” blogs, I posted my thoughts on homosexual marriage on my own blog “The Blunderbuss.”

    Here is an excerpt from my blog:
    “Experience tells us that there is an inseparable relationship between the form and function of government. Likewise, the actual structure of the family is interrelated with its proper function. The very structure of the traditional family, composed of man, woman, and children, not only propagates the traditional values of society — it engenders them.

    This fact cannot be over emphasized. The values of society are not merely propagated through the teaching of parent to child—-the constraints imposed by the structure of traditional family actually engender and reinforce traditional values.

    In Complexity Theory terms: Society is a complex system. At its core is a series of coupled positive and negative feedback loops… The family is the controlling structure that defines the societal attractor. Changes to the structure of the family will cycle and feedback throughout the entire societal system. In a complex system such as society, cause and effect are not proportional. Seemingly small causes can be amplified through the system to have a significant effect in a seemingly unrelated part of the system. The consequences of tinkering with these fundamental parameters are both unpredictable and uncontrollable.

    Even if a homosexual couple were to try to propagate traditional values through the teaching of their children, the structure of the family itself would work contra their efforts.”

  35. greenfrog on August 10, 2004 at 7:06 pm

    Adam,

    Societies can be baptized? But they can’t be married?

  36. Ady Hahn on August 10, 2004 at 8:22 pm

    Kaimi,

    I’m all for protecting a minority group (as the early Mormons were) from tyranny of the majority, but what will protect the majority from the tyranny of a minority group as in SSM? I think a Constitutional amendment is the only way.

  37. john fowles on August 10, 2004 at 8:53 pm

    Hi John (J. Max Wilson)–thanks for those excerpts from your blog.

    I found this to be particularly intuitive:

    Seemingly small causes can be amplified through the system to have a significant effect in a seemingly unrelated part of the system. The consequences of tinkering with these fundamental parameters are both unpredictable and uncontrollable.

    The gay community is up in arms assuring society that SSM will not have any adverse effects for society. Your statement emphasizes that this is a claim that they cannot substantiate, under this aspect of complexity theory that you discuss.

    It might be true that those who oppose SSM on the basis that it will further unravel the fabric of our society by dissolving the family institution as we know it similarly cannot “prove” their position (unless of course there is some causal connection between such moral decline and the fall of previous great civilizations). For me one big difference is that the living prophets are also warning of such an effect from SSM and from the general war that Satan is waging on the foundational building unit of society: the traditional family.

    By the way, Allison says hi!

  38. Kaimi on August 10, 2004 at 9:04 pm

    John,

    Doesn’t the “we don’t know what effect it will have” position prove too much? Doesn’t it result in a position that always favors the status quo?

    I’m sorry, but we can’t adopt the designated hitter rule. We just don’t know whether this small change will unravel the fabric of society. Sure, designated hitter proponents say it will have no effect, but can they _prove_ that? I think not.

    The end result is stare decisis on steroids. No deviations from the status quo, please — we just don’t know what effects they might have!

  39. Silus Grok on August 10, 2004 at 9:23 pm

    Kaimi: that’s a bit flip, don’t you think? We’re not talking a small change in something unrelated to societal fundamentals… we’re talking about the nuclear family — an institution acclaimed by prophets and scientists to be _central_ to our society.

    I understand the temptation to examine the edges of an argument, but your assertion is absurd.

  40. Kaimi on August 10, 2004 at 9:35 pm

    Silus,

    Employ any example you wish. Whatever the example, it is John’s crystal-ball standard, “you must prove that your position will not have negative future effects on society” that is absurd.

    If you want something more serious, how about these ones:

    No war with Iraq unless Bush can prove that the war will have no negative effects on society.

    No new tax cuts unless their proponents can prove that they will have no negative effects on society.

    No changes to the abortion status quo (in either direction) unless the proponents of the change can prove that they will have no negative effects on society.

    etc.

    The crystal-ball standard is ridiculous, and holding SSM proponents to it — SSM should not be enacted unless proponents can prove that there will be no negative effect on society — is equally ridiculous.

  41. J. Max Wilson on August 10, 2004 at 10:37 pm

    Kaimi says “The crystal-ball standard is ridiculous, and holding SSM proponents to it — SSM should not be enacted unless proponents can prove that there will be no negative effect on society — is equally ridiculous.”

    But isn’t it reasonable to say that our experience thus far with seemingly minor modifications to the form of the family (i.e. unwed mothers, divorce, single parent families, two working parents) gives us ample reason to suspect that the effects of a big change such as Same Sex Marriage would have negative consequences?

    Additionally, let me quote from my blog again (sorry, but it is easier than re-forumlating my ideas):

    “From a psychological point of view, even the prurient theories of Sigmund Freud acknowledge that the structure of the traditional family is essential to healthy psychological development. How is a three to five year old boy with “two mommies” ever going to pass through a proper Oedipal Stage? Will he be attracted to both his “mommies”? If so, at whom will his Oedipal hostility be directed? If not, what will be the psychological effect of being attracted to one “mommy” and feeling Oedipal rivalry toward the other? Freud considered the Oedipal stage to be the cornerstone of the “superego” and the nucleus of all human relationships. Thus the famous question ‘Tell me about your mother?’ To which the boy with two mommies must reply: ‘Which one?’

    Even if we reject the specifics of Freud’s theories, as we probably should, the principal that the interaction between the male father and the female mother and their children is central to proper psychological development is still true and widely recognized by psychology.

    The societal problems that result from problems caused by the absence of one parent are well documented. But the essential truth here is that it is not the lack of two parents that causes the problems, it is the lack of a male parent or a female parent that causes them. Two male parents or two female parents will not fulfill that essential developmental need.”

    What kind of citizens will same sex marriage produce? Government by, of , and for the people has a compelling interest in the answer to that question. As the article I cited in my last post discusses, American marriages should produce citizens with the proper attributes to participate in a Republican form of government.

  42. john fowles on August 10, 2004 at 10:38 pm

    Kaimi, but what of the fact that SSM proponents in part base their position on the idea that there will be no detrimental effect on the nuclear family?

  43. J. Max Wilson on August 10, 2004 at 10:45 pm

    Hi John! I was wondering if that was you. Say “hi” back to Allison for me. Chastity says “hi” as well. I hope you are all doing well.

  44. Jack on August 10, 2004 at 11:06 pm

    Kaimi: The tough decisions are typically re-active, not pro-active. The question is what happens if we *don’t* go to war, stop abortion, cut taxes or what have you. The possible negative effects of acting are weighed against the possible negative effects of *not* acting. If the scale is tipped toward the negative effects of *not* acting, then we act.

  45. john fowles on August 10, 2004 at 11:10 pm

    Kaimi, I get the feeling that you often take what I say as being very extreme; that is, you acknowledge that it is hyperbole but then treat it like a dead serious assertion. Sometimes hyperbole is just that and is being used to emphasize some point or other. At any rate, I admit that I use too much hyperbole (to the eternal [literally] chagrin of my wife).

    With respect to this issue of “proof,” I thought I was clear that the side that opposes SSM will also have a difficult time “proving” that SSM will unravel the fabric of society. Despite that fact, I asserted that for me in the absence of such proof, I took the prophets’ repeated warnings against SSM as strong evidence and as determinative for me. I didn’t say that proponents of SSM needed to prove their position but rather noted that according to the complexity theory that Jon Wilson applied to SSM, the proponents can’t prove what they claim is true. In other words, that in and of itself was the target of my criticism: that proponents of SSM are indeed claiming that there will be no negative impact when this is something that is unprovable (and in my opinion improbable). I was confused about your “crystal ball” remarks and also sincerely wonder if you bring the same “crystal ball” criticism against proponents of SSM who are alleging no negative impact.

  46. Kaimi on August 11, 2004 at 11:27 am

    John,

    You’re correct to note that neither side can show what the future holds. That’s why broad, future harm arguments are so problematic.

    SSM Proponents: Let’s allow gays to marry.
    Opponents: No! That will destroy the fabric of society!

  47. J. Max Wilson on August 11, 2004 at 3:00 pm

    John, Kaimi,

    I think that you may be taking my comments concerning Complexity theory a little too far. My statement about the unpredictability of consequences was perhaps a little too vague. While small changes may certainly have many unpredictable and uncontrollable consequences, that does not mean we cannot predict nor control any of the consequences.

    I think that the primary point of my comment was not the unpredictability, but the disproportionality and nonlinearity of cause and effect in a complex feedback system such as our society.

    Proponents of SSM often imply that the notion that a change such as the legalization of SSM could have such a profound effect as the unraveling of society is ridiculous. This perception of ridiculousness depends on the axiom that cause and effect are proportional and linear.

    Complexity theory shows, however, that in complex systems involving feedback cause and effect are neither linear nor proportional. Small changes in initial conditions can have huge effects in seemingly unrelated parts of the system. This is popularly called “The Butterfly Effect.”

    The combination of our knowledge of developmental psychology, experience with changes to the family structure represented by unwed mothers, divorce, and two working parents, combined with this principle of the butterfly effect, lend plausibility to the notion that legalizing SSM is capable of being the catalyst for the unraveling of our societal structure.

    We cannot, perhaps, quantify the exact changes to our society that will occur nor their sequence (and in that sense the effects are indeed unpredictable and uncontrollable), but we can say with a great deal of confidence that the introduction of SSM will have significant, far reaching effects throughout our societal system.

    That is an important point because it seems that most proponents of SSM are saying that it will have negligible effect–that our society will continue largely unchanged. But their claim represents little more than wishful thinking.

    The “Broad, future harm” arguments that Kaimi disparages are, therefore, much more plausible than the “Negligible Effect” arguments of the SSM supporters.

  48. Chad Too on August 11, 2004 at 3:35 pm

    I really wasn’t going to enter this thread, but hey; in for a penny, in for a pound.

    So where does the burden lie? Do SSM proponents have to show no harm, or do SSM opponents have to have to show harm? As I see it, it falls to the opponents to make their argument stand in these equal protection/due process cases, otherwise the government has no business imposing a value judgment denying marriage to homosexuals.

    And as I read the opinions offered by the state Supreme Courts so far (Hawaii, Vermont, Massachusetts, and now a lower court ruling in Washington State) the opponent’s arguments have been presented and found unpersuasive.

    This is the point at which you bring up activist judges, btw.

  49. Kaimi on August 11, 2004 at 4:00 pm

    J. Max,

    Your conclusions are not supported by your initial assertions.

    You write:

    “Small changes in initial conditions can have huge effects in seemingly unrelated parts of the system. This is popularly called ‘The Butterfly Effect.” (emphasis added)

    Agreed 100%. Small changes in initial conditions can lead to large effects.

    This leads you to:

    “Legalizing SSM is capable of being the catalyst for the unraveling of our societal structure.”

    Again, that’s possible. But, I would assert, any number of things are capable of unraveling our social structure. After all, as you note, it’s the butterfly effect.

    Your statement is no more or less true than saying that any other event could lead to the unraveling of societal structure. As you point out, we don’t know when the butterfly’s wing-flapping will lead to a hurricane. And it’s foolish to follow around butterflies saying “there goes a potential hurricane.” For every one butterfly flap that causes a hurricane, there are thousands or millions that don’t cause anything more than a small motion of a butterfly. (How do I know this? Simple math. There are a few hundred hurricanes per year. There are millions of butterflies and billions of wing-flaps per year). The mere existence of the butterfly effect does not mean that we can say that any particular butterfly has a strong chance of causing any particular hurricane.

    From there, you move on to:

    “We can say with a great deal of confidence that the introduction of SSM will have significant, far reaching effects throughout our societal system.”

    I don’t think we can say this at all. Butterfly effect or not, there is a very high likelihood that SSM will be one of the ten thousand butterflies whose wing-flapping has no major effect on the system at all.

  50. greenfrog on August 11, 2004 at 5:02 pm

    Perhaps it’s a bit tangential, but I’d like to understand the complexity points a little better, since I may be mistaken either about the way that theory works in general or the way it works in this particular situation.

    J.MaxWilson wrote: I think that the primary point of my comment was not the unpredictability, but the disproportionality and nonlinearity of cause and effect in a complex feedback system such as our society.

    Why would disproportionality and nonlinearity of cause and effect tip more one direction than the other in this debate?

    Proponents of SSM often imply that the notion that a change such as the legalization of SSM could have such a profound effect as the unraveling of society is ridiculous. This perception of ridiculousness depends on the axiom that cause and effect are proportional and linear.

    Complexity theory shows, however, that in complex systems involving feedback cause and effect are neither linear nor proportional. Small changes in initial conditions can have huge effects in seemingly unrelated parts of the system. This is popularly called “The Butterfly Effect.”

    I think I’m with you so far.

    The combination of our knowledge of developmental psychology, experience with changes to the family structure represented by unwed mothers, divorce, and two working parents, combined with this principle of the butterfly effect, lend plausibility to the notion that legalizing SSM is capable of being the catalyst for the unraveling of our societal structure.

    Do I correctly understand your point to be that nonlinear and disproportionate results can be predicted in this situation? Or only that society is a complex system, so the result of any new event within that system cannot be readily predicted?

    We cannot, perhaps, quantify the exact changes to our society that will occur nor their sequence (and in that sense the effects are indeed unpredictable and uncontrollable), but we can say with a great deal of confidence that the introduction of SSM will have significant, far reaching effects throughout our societal system.

    How can we make such a statement with confidence?

    I ask that question based on the following assumptions:

    Assumption #1 There is a certain number of people who are definitively homosexual in orientation, and who are not likely to succeed in heterosexual marriages, no matter whether gay marriage is or is not legally permitted. Those persons will either choose to live celibate lives (presumably, a very tiny fraction), or to engage in homosexual relationships (presumably, a majority of such persons).

    Assumption #2: There may be (but we candidly do not know) a certain number of people who would choose to live a homosexual lifestyle if, and only if, gay marriage were lawful. If not, they would choose to live heterosexual lifestyles. Though I’m not sure it’s correct for all of such persons, for the purposes of this discussion, we can assume that such persons making such decisions would be bad for society.

    Assumption #3: Marriage relationships are both longer in average term and happier than consensual, but non-married relationships are, whether heterosexual or homosexual.

    Assumption #4: Children raised in two-parent homes (whether homosexual or heterosexual) are more likely to become stable and productive members of society than children raised in one-parent homes or orphanages.

    Does your confidence in your conclusion depend upon different assumptions than I have made, or do the assumptions lead to your confidence in a way I haven’t yet understood?

    That is an important point because it seems that most proponents of SSM are saying that it will have negligible effect–that our society will continue largely unchanged. But their claim represents little more than wishful thinking.

    I think that there are demonstrable benefits from legally authorizing gay marriage for the people addressed by my first and fourth assumptions. Those people who will not choose celibacy (almost all of the people who are definitively homosexual), at least, would be benefitted by the longer-term and happier relationships that result from marriage. As would any children already born to such parents and any children adopted by them.

    The “Broad, future harm” arguments that Kaimi disparages are, therefore, much more plausible than the “Negligible Effect” arguments of the SSM supporters.

    As I’ve noted, I haven’t yet been able to reach this conclusion. Can you help me understand why you are able to draw this conclusion.

  51. ed on August 11, 2004 at 5:06 pm

    Chad Too’s argument seems to imply that society is a delicate equilibrium, and we should be cautious of changing anything because any action could make the whole thing fall apart like a house of cards.

    This is a mischaracterization. Society is changing and adapting all the time, in fact quite rapidly. Whether we allow SSM or not, there will still be gay people and their relationship to the rest of society will continue to evolve somehow. In such an environment I don’t see why the burden of proof should fall only on those in favor of SSM, since the alternative is not “no change,” but some different kind of change.

    This is not to say we shouldn’t think about consequences, but we need to THINK about them, not just rule out any change based on some ideas about nonlinear dynamics. We won’t be able to “prove” that our predicted consequences are right, but we can at least make arguments and see if they seem reasonable. Very few people on either side of the debate seem to be doing that very well.

    (On the other hand, now that I’ve written this post, I’m not sure I totally believe it. I don’t think the “precautionary principle” should be taken too seriously, but I do sympathize with Burkean or Hayek-ian cautions against social engineering.)

  52. Chad too on August 11, 2004 at 5:15 pm

    Ed: I think you mean J. Max’ argument.

    It’s not a big deal, and I normally wouldn’t have mentioned it, but this time by so doing I actually got to use “X-apostrophe” as a possessive singular in a non-forced context. That just doesn’t happen every day. ;-)

  53. Jack on August 11, 2004 at 5:17 pm

    Kaimi: As Max has already pointed out, there are “hurricanes” tearing their way through society at present as a result of children born out of wedlock, divorce, both parents working out of the home etc. The fact the these storms continue to rise ought to indicate that there is a particularly sensitive corridor through which the “butterflies” have been flying. Max, in some of his earlier comments has stressed the potencial added psychological effects that SSM will have on children. It seems to me that either, we’re incredibly naive, or we really don’t give a damn about raising well adjusted children who have some idea of what it means to be created in the image of God. Here’s one weather forecast: SSM is legalized. SSM is virtuous because it’s legal. SSM is touted as a viable familial institution in health classes at public schools nationwide. What kind of potencial psychological effect do you think this might have on the raising generation? As hinted in an earlier comment, in my opinion the possible negative effects of legalizing SSM far out-weigh the possible negative effects of opposing it.

    PS. Max, I hope I didn’t quote you *too* much out of context.

  54. ed on August 11, 2004 at 5:35 pm

    oops, sorry Chad Too…it was J. Max.

    Jack…could you be a little more explicit? Perhaps you are forcasting that if we adopt SSM, more of the minority of people with homosexual inclinations will live in sinful unions rather than living a heterosexual lifestyle or staying celibate, thus bringing condemnation on their souls. Is this what you’re talking about, or do you forsee further dire consequences?

  55. Chad too on August 11, 2004 at 5:49 pm

    Jack,

    It’s not an issue of what I want to teach my children. SSM becoming legal doesn’t mean that you can’t teach your children that it’s wrong. My parents taught me that alcohol use, even where legal, is wrong. Society certainly doesn’t support that. Yet I don’t drink. Why? Because I have a testimony of the Restored Gospel and believe that God does not want me to drink. Ditto porn, gambling, coffee, and other things people of our ilk consider ungodly but society doesn’t prohibit.

    How do you handle those things now? I teach the youth I work with that even when society has lower standards than we do we are blessed with the fulness of the Gospel, so we know how to act despite the “world’s” glorification of those things. That knowing good and evil and choosing good is part of how the Father exalts us. That choosing evil has it’s consequences and choosing good has it’s consequences. I then bear testimony of how my life has been blessed by choosing good.

    Is this different that what you do? Do you have any reason to think that this method wouldn’t continue work if SSM were legalized? Did this method suddenly stop working in Massachusetts a couple-of-months back?

  56. J. Max Wilson on August 11, 2004 at 6:19 pm

    Kaimi,

    With all due respect, your counter-argument relies heavily on misrepresenting my assertion.

    Your selective use of quotes gives the impression that my move from “can have” through “is capable of” to “will have” is a complete leap of illogic. You leave out the following key passage:

    “The combination of our knowledge of developmental psychology, experience with changes to the family structure represented by unwed mothers, divorce, and two working parents, combined with this principle of the butterfly effect…”

    The example of butterflies and hurricanes is just an illustration of the principle that small causes can have large effects elsewhere in the system. The probability of whether they will varies depending on the particular complex system itself. You are trying to extrapolate a generalized principle of the probability of variable amplification from the butterfly effect illustration and apply it to the SSM system. But while the principle of the possibility of amplification can be applied to both systems, the probability that it will is not system independent.

    Some complex systems are, indeed, like the butterfly analogy where the causes will be unpredictably amplified or dampened. In other complex systems, however, there are certain variables that will be consistently amplified throughout the system.

    If when analyzing such a system, we find that small tweaks to certain parts of the system consistently have widespread effects, then we can predict with a good degree of confidence that other changes to those same variables will also have effects.

    That is why the part of my comments you omitted were so central to the move from “can have” to “will have.”

    It is the combination of our experience with developmental psychology and our direct experience with negative societal effects caused by changes to parental structure in concert with the principle of the butterfly effect that gives us confidence that SSM will have a widespread negative effect.

    SSM Proponents: Let’s allow gays to marry.

    SSM Opponents: No. Our knowledge of psychology indicates that both male and female parental influences are central to proper child development. We also know that small changes in complex systems can have disproportionate, nonlinear effects. Through study and experience we have seen that deviations from the traditional structure of the family like unwed mothers, divorce, and two working parents (all of which include a decline in the influence of one gender or another upon the children), have consistently had broad, negative societal consequences. These things lead us to believe that the structure of the family is one of those variables that is consistently amplified through the system to have significant effect, and that those effects are consistently negative. In our estimation, SSM constitutes a greater deviation from traditional family structure than any of those with which we have experience. Therefore we believe with some confidence that SSM will have significant, negative, far reaching consequences in our society.

    SSM Proponents: Nuh-uh! It will have no effect whatsoever!

    SSM Opponents: Oh Yeah? Prove it!

  57. J. Max Wilson on August 11, 2004 at 6:34 pm

    GreenFrog,

    I don’t have a lot of time right now to address your whole comment, but here there is one ting that you said that I think is key to the argument.

    You said: “Assumption #4: Children raised in two-parent homes (whether homosexual or heterosexual) are more likely to become stable and productive members of society than children raised in one-parent homes or orphanages.”

    I disagree with part of Assumption #4.

    Children raised in a traditional two parent home are more likely to become stable productive members of society than those raised in one parent homes. But the operational benefit is not just the fact that they have two parents, but that one parent is male and the other is female and that the male-female dynamic is central to the proper development of the child. See my comments on Freud above.

    All of our experience with removing the influence of one gender or the other from the family system has proven negative. A child in a two parent, homosexual home is just as much without the influence of a mommy or daddy as the child of a single parent.

  58. ed on August 11, 2004 at 6:37 pm

    J. Max, I’m puzzled by your assertion that “SSM constitutes a greater deviation from traditional family structure than any of those with which we have experience.” I would think that SSM would only be practiced by a small minority, and they would be mostly people who are already failing to follow the the “traditional family” paradigm. I would think that polygamy, for example, was a much greater deviation. I’m not denying that SSM could have large negative consequences, but I wish you’d explain what you think they would be.

  59. DaveB on August 11, 2004 at 6:46 pm

    J. Max –

    Re: Two-parent vs. one-parent homes: While Freud-inspired speculation raises suspicions of two-parent, same-sex parenting, the available social science shows that kids raised by gay couples turn out just fine. The evidence is not definitive, of course, but it’s a bit more empirical than Freud’s discussion about resolving Oedipal complexes — or any other theoretical postulates about the need for both male and female parents.

  60. Kaimi on August 11, 2004 at 6:51 pm

    Max,

    As re-summarized, that’s a conceptually coherent argument, but it depends on the veracity of a number of facts that I’m probably less willing than you to accept as true.

    In particular, it places a lot of weight on the truth of the assertion:

    “Through study and experience we have seen that deviations from the traditional structure of the family like unwed mothers, divorce, and two working parents (all of which include a decline in the influence of one gender or another upon the children), have consistently had broad, negative societal consequences.”

    It seems that this view, or some variation of it, is widely shared by opponents of SSM. I’m not particularly convinced that this assertion is true.

    First, I’m not convinced that hurricanes or whatnot are affecting society now. Society seems pretty fine to me. I’ve suggested this on Jim’s “Are we less righteous” thread. It’s a point that there is some disagreement on.

    In addition, unwed mothers and divorce have been around for thousands of years. For that matter, two-working-parent families have existed for thousands of years as well. I’m not sure how you’re using them here.

    In addition, you may be leaving out a data point. SSM is unlikely to be directly practiced by any more than a small minority of people in society. It is thus potentially materially different than the other items on your list.

    Finally, you’re committing a logical fallacy in your categorizing. That is, you’re saying:

    “A, B, and C each share attribute 1 and attribute 2. I’m going to cluster them into a group based on their sharing attribute 1. We can also add D to this group, since it also shares attribute 1. We know that all members of the group also share attribute 2. Therefore, D also shares attribute 2.”

    (Stylized example: New York, Boston, and Philadelphia each have baseball teams. We’ll call them “cities with baseball teams.” Phoenix can be added to this group too, since it also has a baseball team. Hmm, what do all of the cities already in the group have in common? They have icy winters. Therefore, Phoenix has icy winters).

    We see this in your argument that unwed mothers, divorce, and two working parents have had negative consequences. You categorize these items as collectively, “deviation from traditional family structure” and then suggest that another item which you believe to be in the same category would have the same effect. This categorization is only valid as to the original categorizing variable.

    The problem can be shown because we can create other reasonable categorizations which would include your three examples of harmful phenomenon, yet exclude SSM. For example, someone, while accepting your premise of the harm of the three first items, could suggest that:

    “Unwed mothers, divorce, and two working parents –all phenomena which decrease the amount of time a parent can spend with a child — have had negative consequences. SSM, which will not decrease the time spent with a child, will not have the same consequences.”

  61. Silus Grok on August 11, 2004 at 7:00 pm

    DaveB: “the available social science”? What’s your source on that?

  62. DaveB on August 11, 2004 at 7:12 pm

    It’s not obvious that all or even most changes to parental structure have been bad for kids or for “the family.” For example, society’s movement away from the old stern-patriarch model of fatherhood is a big change, and it has probably had a net positive effect in terms of children relating to and loving their fathers. Similarly, laws and strengthened taboos against child abuse, spousal abuse, and spousal rape have done much to improve the lives of people in families. Remember, the traditional family in the Old World sense was in many ways a really nasty institution. The feminists have a point in their criticisms of it, even if you don’t want to go all the way with them.

    So might SSM also strengthen the family? People like Jonathan Rauch make an argument to that effect: By opening marriage to a class of citizens who desire it but are now excluded, we as a society would affirm that marriage is indeed the highest expression of commitment available to romantic partners. Wouldn’t this enhance the dignity of marriage — and perhaps, butterfly-like, encourage a few shacked-up straights to get hitched, or prevent a divorce or two when Bob and Bob move in down the street and set such a good example of working out marital differences?

    More importantly, this thread has been missing the acknowledgement that if when we prohibit SSM in the name of defending marriage or the family, the negative consequences of our act fall almost entirely on a single class of citizens. Several commenters argue that a number of changes in family law and custom have weakened the family (no-fault divorce, birth control, etc.) and therefore another change — legalizing SSM — would REALLY screw things up. But since the consequences of SSM are unknown, and since the burdens of a ban create a situation that looks a whole lot like discrimination (okay, I think it IS discrimination, but even if you don’t agree, you should admit there’s SOMETHING icky about it), shouldn’t you focus your energy on repealing or remdying those initial causes of family decline? Change the divorce laws so people, straight or gay, can’t end marriages so easily? Or ban birth control? (I know, after Griswold it would take a constitutional ammendment to do that, but surely amending the Constitution isn’t too great a task in the struggle to defend the family, is it?)

  63. Chad too on August 11, 2004 at 7:27 pm

    If I may add one more nuance to Kaimi’s excellent rebuttal, J. Max has also made one additional leap that does not bode well for his argument.

    Max has made the assumption that the reason we have marriage is for the propagation of families. I believe this to be true as well. As Latter-day Saints, we are allowed to preach this and it is message that resonates with many. The legal requirements of civil marriage, however, do not address this.

    Even among heterosexuals, candidates for a marriage license are not required to show fitness for marriage (other than standard competency), intent to have children, fertility, or evidence that –once children come along– they will be good parents. A blood test (do any states still require this?) and a declaration of non-bigamy, and the filing fee are usually enough to create a binding civil marriage.

    People married civilly are under no obligation to provide a stable home, or even live in the same home for all that matters. Once they say “I do” and presumably consummate the marriage, they could never speak to each other again and still be married in the eyes of the law. Even a non-consummated heterosexual marriage stands as long as one or the other of the partners doesn’t complain.

    I don’t believe the assertions J.Max presents to be true. Regardless, it would be patently unfair to hold gays to the standard he proposes when heterosexuals aren’t held to it either.

    BTW, did anyone else see how all the candidates for Utah Attorney General, including the anti-SSM Republican all denounced the proposed Utah constitution amendment on SSM as too broad and legally indefensible? Gayle Ruzicka must be foaming at the mouth!

  64. DaveB on August 11, 2004 at 7:29 pm

    Silus –

    I’m not a social scientist, so in my reading on this I’ve generally relied on summaries, reviews, and the explanations of some former colleagues. A place to start would be this summary article on the APA website about the research, with annotated bibliography. As the article itself says, studies of gay parenting are relatively few and tend to suffer from various methodological flaws. I also tend to go into these things with the attitude that humans and human development are really, really complicated. But the evidence so far looks good for gay parenting, and it’s definitely of more use for public policy discussions than vague Freudian theorizing.

  65. Ethesis (Stephen M) on August 11, 2004 at 8:41 pm

    http://www.timesandseasons.org/archives/001151.html#020371

    Guess I should have quoted Volokh’s observations here instead.

  66. Silus Grok on August 11, 2004 at 8:55 pm

    DaveB: Thanks for the link. With regards to your comment vis a vis marriage being the “highest expression of commitment available to romantic partners” … I heartily disagree.

    State-sanctioned pair bonding may have ancillary benefits… and the individuals who join in matrimony may have romantic visions (especially in the West)… but from a societal view (and in the view of many who’ve been married for any length of time), marriage isn’t about romance. It’s about child-rearing.

    (An aside: I maintain that any argument against SGM that does not reference this key issue is probably off-mark.)

    Chad Too raises the specter of childless marriages and the flying canard of sexless marriages… childless pair-bonds can adopt, mentor, and foster children, and pair-bonds that don’t care to have children still reduce the pool of “free radicals” (to borrow a term from biology) — those single heterosexuals that might pose a threat to stable pair-bonds.

    And you raise the issue of bad marriages… but bad marriages aren’t a viable argument against the institution as a whole.

    Finally, the idea that opening marriage to same gender couples would somehow improve the statistics on matrimonial bliss is misguided: most likely — as homosexuals generally represent a wide cross-section of society at-large — such couples experience marriage failure at the same rate as “breeders”. Sadly, given the horrifying statistics of domestic violence among gay couples, it would not surprise me if inclusion didn’t negatively impact overal matrimonial bliss numbers (albeit only slightly).

  67. john fowles on August 11, 2004 at 9:50 pm

    Cad Too: In your exchange with J. Max, you stated in one comment that SSM becoming legal doesn’t mean that you can’t teach your children that it’s wrong. In another comment, you wrote Max has made the assumption that the reason we have marriage is for the propagation of families. I believe this to be true as well. As Latter-day Saints, we are allowed to preach this and it is message that resonates with many. The legal requirements of civil marriage, however, do not address this.

    In theory this should be true and if it were, I personally would be a little less worried about the implications of SSM unravelling society. What I am worried about goes to human nature and an issue of trust. In fact, perhaps one reason why I can’t define myself as a liberal at this point is a real lack of trust for the social agendas of people who have no anchoring belief in a higher power (it doesn’t have to be an LDS belief). If man is god, then where is the curb on nihilism? Certainly not in the wide expanse of secular humanism (in my opinion).

    What I mean by this is that I have a hard time trusting that the activists advocating SSM with a disproportionately loud voice would be content with merely forcing gay marriage on society (although some have argued against this observation about the disproportionate loudness of the gay community when I have mentioned it on other threads, on this thread Kaimi even admitted in his response that those who would benefit from SSM are only a very small minority group). Once they get that, what is next? I am afraid that the next step could be to take away that freedom in which you find shelter in your quotes above. Once gay marriage is legal, what happens to institutions that discriminate by not allowing gays to marry? Under Reynolds, which banned polygamy on the belief/conduct dichotomy, the Church will still be free to believe that SSM is wrong or wicked or whatever, but in denying gays the benefit of marriage in the Church that belief could be argued to spill over into conduct that the courts could decide appropriate to regulate. You might counter that constitutional rights don’t apply as against private institutions or individuals, but that didn’t stop the gov’t from regulating the marriage practices of a private institution once before.

    Lest I face a swath of protests that this is an absurd slippery slope, let me just re-emphasize an example from the rules of judicial ethics and conduct that I pointed out elsewhere: after gay marriage is legalized in all the states through court order on EP and DP grounds (which will be inevitable absent the FMA), any LDS judge will have one year from the date of the decision preventing a state from disallowing gays to marry either (1) to lobby the Church to change its position on whether gays can marry and hold the priesthood, etc. or (2) to leave the Church as an institution/organization that discriminates against a protected class (adding sexual orientation discrimination to race, gender, and alienage here)

    Just as a matter of disclosure, this lack of trust in the straight-forwardness and circumscribed nature of these activists’ agendas prevents me from surrendering and just saying “let them do what they want.”

    DaveB: But the evidence so far looks good for gay parenting, and it’s definitely of more use for public policy discussions than vague Freudian theorizing. I agree with you when you emphasized elsewhere in your comment that these relationships and their effects are incredibly complex. But I take issue with the quoted assertion because such “evidence” seems self-serving at best, and the methodological flaws in the research that you mentioned (too briefly) in passing might negate any meaning in the evidence itself.

    I don’t disparage your personal intentions in wanting to promote freedom by allowing gays to marry; but it seems that you look at the issue with rose-colored lenses, ignoring any indications of the potential negative impacts and seizing upon any studies or data that seems to support your point.

  68. john fowles on August 11, 2004 at 9:54 pm

    Sorry, should have been “Chad Too.”

  69. Jack on August 11, 2004 at 10:55 pm

    Chad too: I agree that we should teach our children “that even when society has lower standards than we do we are blessed with the fulness of the Gospel, so we know how to act despite the “world’s” glorification of those things.” I think that is well said. I certainly try to do the same with my own children. But, what about the 98.5% who don’t have the fulness of the Gospel? Apparently our efforts to spread the gospel have not improved (generally) the plight of the family.

    Hello! Is anyone hearing what J. Max is trying to say? To say that “SSM, which will not decrease the time spent with a child, will not have the same [negative] consequences” as single parenting, two parents working out of the home, etc. is not the central issue. If I’m reading Max’ comments correctly, he is asserting that the problem at hand is a psychological one.

    Max said: “Our knowledge of psychology indicates that both male and female parental influences are central to proper child development.” Then in a latter comment: “All of our experience with removing the influence of one gender or the other from the family system has proven negative. A child in a two parent, homosexual home is just as much without the influence of a mommy or daddy as the child of a single parent.”

    In other words, a child is dependent on the care of both a mother and a father for proper psychological developement. Of course there will always be extenuating circumstances which will prevent this ideal arrangement in some cases. However, if it is not considered the ideal (the abscence of one gender) by society in general, then the child has one less hurdle to overcome in achieving psychological wholeness. If same gender parenting is considered an alternative “ideal” (virtuous!) then the child is challenged with the additional psychological hurdle of understanding the purpose and design of both genders uniting to achieve wholeness.

    As I a said above, in time SSM will be touted as a viable familial institution in public schools nation-wide. The media will certainly have its hay-day with it. No doubt we’ll have a sitcom with a well adjusted same gender marraige living next door to a completely defunked “traditional” family. Or what’s worse, the SGM family living next door to a happy traditional family all blisfully getting along in their own little arcadia.

  70. obi-wan on August 11, 2004 at 11:10 pm

    John Fowles: “Lest I face a swath of protests that this is an absurd slippery slope . . .”

    One of my lawprofs once defined the slippery slope as “fear of doing the right thing now for fear that you will have to do the right thing later.”

    You are indeed on a slippery slope here.

  71. john fowles on August 11, 2004 at 11:35 pm

    Obi-wan: so you don’t see any negative implications in this for the Church?

  72. greenfrog on August 12, 2004 at 12:29 am

    J.MaxWilson,

    Thanks for the response. I understand you disagree with a portion of my fourth assumption — that portion that suggests that children are better with two parents of the same gender than with one or with no parents at all. Rather than debating the probabilities of such matters, I’ll lay them aside for now.

    But I still don’t see how that changed assumption leads to your conclusions.

    When you get some time, I’d appreciate your further comment.

    gf

  73. obi-wan on August 12, 2004 at 12:41 am

    “Obi-wan: so you don’t see any negative implications in this for the Church?”

    Only this one: when an unmarried heterosexual couple accepts the gospel, it is fairly simple to put them in a position to be sealed as a family unit. That is presumably not going to be an option for same-sex couples, married or unmarried. But I’m not optimistic that many same-sex couples are going to want to hear the missionary discussions, anyway.

  74. john fowles on August 12, 2004 at 1:28 am

    Obi-wan: implicit in your response seems to be a preference on your part to allow homosexuals to have temple marriages. How can that be done consistently with the Gospel and the scriptural condemnations of homosexuality?

  75. DaveB on August 12, 2004 at 1:51 am

    allow homosexuals to have temple marriages. How can that be done consistently with the Gospel and the scriptural condemnations of homosexuality?

    Presumably at some point God will give his people the greater light and knowledge that will allow same-sex sealings, right?

  76. john fowles on August 12, 2004 at 1:55 am

    DaveB: please clarify–that was a very confusing statement/question, and if it was sarcastic, it didn’t come through in the comment.

    Are you suggesting that homosexuals will be able to marry in temples someday when God gives them further light and knowledge? What about the scriptural condemnations of homosexuality, that it is a perversion and unnatural, etc.?

  77. DaveB on August 12, 2004 at 11:33 am

    John –

    Sorry, I meant my comment to be light and playful, which doesn’t really come across on a blog comment, especially not on a thread with so much heavy thinking going on.

    I haven’t looked in a while, but there are what, seven or eight scriptural condemnations of homosexuality? All biblical, by the way, none in the additional LDS cannon. Some of the passages that are traditionally interpreted as anti-homosexuality don’t really look that way on closer examination: if you read the story of Lot and Sodom without the years of hermeneutical accretions about “sodomy” you end up saying that something odd is going on in that story but it ain’t really about the homosexuality. On the other hand, some of the passages can’t be interpreted away easily, like some statements by Paul.

    But surely Mormons believe in continuing revelation, right? Sometimes God gives lesser laws to his people because they can’t handle the greater law. Sometimes statements that have made it into the canon represent personal or cultural biases, not God’s own truth. Paul doesn’t appear to like homosexual activity, but he also doesn’t like men with long hair or women who speak in church.

    I have no idea how you would work out a theology within Mormonism that allows for same-sex sealings, and there are obvious barriers to such a thing — in scripture, in the theology of eternal marriage, and not least in a largely homophobic Mormon culture.

    But I have a gay friend who resigned from the church when he came out rather than break what he saw as his sacred covenants, and he always tells me that someday Mormonism will come around because, after all, God’s not a bigot and someday the Mormons will be ready to realize this.

  78. Kaimi on August 12, 2004 at 11:42 am

    John, Dave,

    Nate asked this question, and there were some great replies, in his post, “The Real Issue.”

    I think it’s entirely possible that future revelation could extend the blessings of temple marriage to homosexual couples.

    As for John’s question of “What about the scriptural condemnations of homosexuality, that it is a perversion and unnatural, etc.” — they would occupy the same place as scriptural condemnations of pork-eating. Shocking to Jews at the time — “but what about the scriptural discussion!” — but God has the authority to modify the laws he has given us. Similarly, interracial temple marriage was a big no-no, and scriptures against intermarriage (there are a lot of them) employed, but as Elder McConkie said after the Second Manifesto, it doesn’t matter at all what anyone said prior to that point.

  79. obi-wan on August 12, 2004 at 12:17 pm

    “Obi-wan: implicit in your response seems to be a preference on your part to allow homosexuals to have temple marriages.”

    No, not really. I am just identifying the problem that those earthly family units are not going to be sealed for eternity.

    That may not be a unique problem — I doubt that we would seal polyandrous Nepalese family units, either.

    “How can that be done consistently with the Gospel and the scriptural condemnations of homosexuality?”

    I don’t think it can, which is why I identified it as a problem. I tend not to agree with subsequent posts to the effect that same-sex sealings may be revealed — the concept doesn’t “fit” what we know about the plan of salvation, so it would take a major theological upset to allow it.

  80. DaveB on August 12, 2004 at 12:50 pm

    Kaimi –

    Thanks for pointing to the interesting discussion at that previous post. Our little theological detour on this thread has been just that: a detour — and what’s interesting to me is how little the theology matters to the public policy issue at hand. (Others might disagree.) Which makes the LDS Church’s official stand on an anti-SSM amendment so puzzling.

  81. Chad Too on August 12, 2004 at 2:19 pm

    Silus: Chad Too raises the specter of childless marriages and the flying canard of sexless marriages… childless pair-bonds can adopt, mentor, and foster children, and pair-bonds that don’t care to have children still reduce the pool of “free radicals” (to borrow a term from biology) ? those single heterosexuals that might pose a threat to stable pair-bonds.
    ——————
    I happen to know a couple that currently have a sexless temple marriage, and no, that isn’t a one-liner. It was never consummated, but is valid.

    And I think you missed my point a touch. I’m not saying that childless couples or even single people are somehow also or threat to marriage (or even that adopting the view that SSM threatens marriage forces one to view singles and the childless as threats). J. Max is using a family structure argument to support is claim that traditional marriage is more condusive to raising families and therefore leaves SSM open for banning. I don’t dispute that, religiously, I believe that traditional marriage is best. But the yardstick for denying access to marriage to gays that J.Max uses is not the yardstick being used to measure fitness for candidates for heterosexual marriage. Aside from consanguinuity, bigamy, and age of consent, the only other characteristic being used to determine fitness for marriage is the gender of the candidates. And that is precisely what is being challenged.

  82. Blog Admin on September 3, 2004 at 10:34 pm

    [Comments lost in the move from MT to WP, restored from prior thread]

    John sez: Once they get that, what is next? I am afraid that the next step could be to take away that freedom in which you find shelter in your quotes above.
    ——————–
    We will always have to be vigilant regarding our freedoms. That remains whether SSM is legal or not.

    I actually think we LDS have more to fear if the super-right wing is successful in creating the supermajority needed to pass the FMA. Once they’ve tasted blood, I can see them becoming quite bloodthirsty. What’s to stop them from suddenly deciding that the “traditional” definition of religion (or at least as understood by the Founders) should exclude all religions founded after 1787?

    If they have the supermajority, not much.

    Comment by: Chad Too at August 12, 2004 03:31 PM

    ***

    Chad too, although I am inclined to hope that the First Amendment would likely prevent that kind of supermajority action, I think that when it comes down to a supermajority amending the Constitution, it gets more tricky than that.

    So you raise an interesting point: there is nothing to insure that the Constitution itself cannot be amended in a way to take away rights. That has been part of the debate about incorporation of the Bill of Rights. Once incorporated, can a later amendment reverse what has been done? That would be an amendment that restricts a legitimate Constitutional right (rather than prophylactically insulating against the entrenchment of a court-created right emanating from a nebulous and unrelated penumbra, which would be the purpose of the FMA).

    Comment by: john fowles@gmx.net at August 12, 2004 04:41 PM

    ***

    An amendment by definition would have to supercede anything earlier. If an amendment like I mentioned were to pass via supermajority, the First would be of no avail to us because religion would have been constitutionally defined as I outlined above. Mormonism would have then been “defined” out of existence, at least in this country.

    Hence my reticence to give the religious right even one inch when it comes to deciding what people’s rights are. If you have a mistrust of those who aren’t led by God, I’d double that mistrust when dealing with those who think they are led by God, but aren’t.

    Comment by: Chad too at August 12, 2004 06:35 PM

    ***

    Chad too, don’t worry, I have a very healthy mistrust for the evangelical majority and have often (even in this forum) discouraged identification of LDS priorities with the agenda of the “religious right,” as you call it.

    What you haven’t explained yet is why I should trust the unreligious left any more than the religious right. What assurance can you give me that there isn’t a deeper agenda behind what the left is doing, e.g. to disadvantage religion in the interest of (state-controlled) secularization (see France)?

    Also, don’t overlook the fact that my last comment was agreeing with you (so there was in theory no need for the comeback re the First Amendment).

    Comment by: john fowles at August 12, 2004 06:45 PM

    ***

    No comeback intended. Perhaps I misunderstood your intent but please know that mine was 100% noble. In fact, I thought it quite the breakthrough that you and I agreed to agree instead of agreeing to disagree! You have my respect.

    Comment by: Chad too at August 12, 2004 10:03 PM

  83. Tutissima Cassis on September 21, 2004 at 1:24 pm

    Notes on Blogging Etiquette
    Heidi Bond and Denise Brogan are discussing the etiquette of law student blogging. They’ve got some common sense tips: Assume that your professors and classmates are reading your blog; remember that you’re in public; remember that your employer, prof…

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